March 13, 2006

Norton Resigns

Former Colorado Attorney General Gail Norton resigns as Secretary of the Interior, and the usual suspects chime in with their disapproval:

As one of the architects of Bush's energy policy, Norton eased regulations to speed approval of oil and gas drilling permits, particularly in New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming's Powder River Basin.

In her first three years, the pace of drilling permits issued by Interior's Bureau of Land Management rose 70 percent. She also was the administration's biggest advocate for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Alaska's North Slope to oil drilling, areas considered sensitive for caribou and other wildlife.

"We have improved the ways we are protecting wildlife in ways that energy development is responsible," she said Friday. "We spent billions of dollars in improving wildlife habitat and otherwise restoring the environment."

Many environmentalists and Democrats have been sharply critical of her stewardship of public lands. One environmental group had only two words reacting to Norton's resignation: "Good riddance."

"Gale Norton was an unpopular symbol of unpopular policies," said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. "Americans do not believe their public lands should be sold to the highest bidder, and they don't believe in privatizing their parks, forests, monuments. While the symbol of those unpopular policies may be leaving, we don't expect those unpopular policies to change."
Aside from the position she held in the administration, Norton represented the often marginalized fly-over country where most of the land, forests, and resources to be considered are held. Sen. Wayne Allard and Rep. Mark Udall agreed:

"Colorado and the West have lost a valuable voice in the White House. We have been blessed to have someone heading the Department of the Interior who understands Western issues and concerns. Her leadership on water issues has been critical to Colorado and the other states in the Colorado River Compact," said Sen. Wayne Allard.

The Colorado River Compact helped states come to terms with future water needs of the West.

"As a Coloradan and Westerner, Gale had a unique perspective on how important public lands are to Western communities. I have not always agreed with the Bush administration's public lands policies, but I've always respected Gale for her integrity and work ethic," said Rep. Mark Udall D-Colo.

Bush promises to appoint another Westerner.


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